Published: 10:47, February 21, 2024 | Updated: 17:06, February 21, 2024
Hong Kong govt condemns statement on Article 23
By Wang Zhan

The Chinese national and Hong Kong regional flags fly as visitors throng the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, Hong Kong on Jan 1, 2024. (SHAMIM ASHRAF / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has firmly opposed and strongly condemned a joint statement made by Hong Kong Watch and other organizations on the Basic Law Article 23 legislation.

“The joint statement smacks of deliberate smears and is no further from the truth,” a government spokesman said on Tuesday night, adding that it must refute them and set the record straight.

Completely disregarding relevant laws of the countries in which they are situated, the organizations made skewed remarks that the government’s legislative proposals on Article 23 undermined human rights, exposing their sheer hypocrisy and double standards, added the spokesperson.

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The government also said remarks in the joint statement on the offenses relating to 'seditious intention', which alleged that offenses relating to 'seditious intention' would criminalize peaceful criticisms of the government, are clearly wrong and amounted to scaremongering. 

Making reasonable and genuine criticisms of government polices based on objective facts, pointing out issues or offering views for improvement will not violate offences relating to sedition intention.

Spokesman, HKSAR Govt

The statement intentionally ignored paragraph 4.8 of the consultation document, which proposed circumstances that do not constitute 'seditious intention', the spokesman pointed out. 

“Making reasonable and genuine criticisms of government policies based on objective facts, pointing out issues or offering views for improvement will not violate offenses relating to sedition intention."

Regarding the joint statement’s appeal to foreign chambers of commerce and international companies based in Hong Kong to re-evaluate risks and its request for them to impose so-called "sanctions" on officials handling the Basic Law Article 23 legislation, the SAR government said it totally disrespected the constitutional duty of the Hong Kong SAR and blatantly trampled on the city’s legislative process.

“Such practice interferes through intimidation in the affairs of Hong Kong that are purely China's internal affairs.”

It not only violates the international law and basic norms that govern international relations but also allegedly constitutes the offense of "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security" under Article 29 of the National Security Law, said the spokesman.

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Regarding the measures concerning enforcement powers, procedural matters, and arrangements on the serving of sentences of convicted persons as mentioned in the consultation document on the Basic Law Article 23 legislation, similar provisions are also present in legislation such as the UK’s National Security Act 2023 and the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, the spokesman pointed out.

“It is fully justified for the HKSAR to put forward measures that could be considered, having regard to the relevant laws of foreign countries, as well as the shortcomings as revealed from experiences gained from handling cases concerning offense endangering national security.”

The spokesman stressed that the HKSAR government will complete the legislative exercise as early as possible to plug the relevant national security loopholes, and, in the process, will listen to the constructive suggestions from various sectors and give full and prudent consideration to the Basic Law, and the relevant provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong.”

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“What the joint statement advocates squarely reflects the ongoing national security threats which anti-China and destabilizing forces pose,” the statement added.